Being injured at work, and subsequently filing a workers’ compensation claim, can create a real shift in the way that your medical treatment is handled. Where you would naturally go to the doctor of your choosing for an ailment or injury that happens outside of work, in the state of New Jersey your employer has the right to choose what health care provider an injured worker goes to for care. This can create a sense that the physician is working for the employer rather than for the patient for whom they are providing care. State laws were written anticipating or responding to this concern, and address it in a number of ways that injured workers should be aware of.
The first thing you need to know is that the right of your employer to point you to a specific doctor is absolute. Though they are not permitted to deny you treatment, they are able to say what doctor you see for care. This decision or direction is generally based on whether the doctor is a cooperating member of the health network that the employer is connected to. The state does not certify or assign specific doctors to be workers’ compensation physicians: any doctor can be authorized by a workers’ compensation insurance company to provide care.
Once you’ve been told that a doctor has been approved to provide care and you begin to see that physician, you and the doctor have the same patient/physician relationship as is true with any other doctor that you see. The doctor can order whatever tests or treatment they see fit, and the workers’ compensation insurance company is not permitted to interfere with that treatment. If you are seeking a physician that your workers’ compensation adjuster has approved, and then the adjuster refuses to authorize a test, you have the right to file a motion with the courts to force them to provide authorization and payment. The adjuster is also not allowed to determine the length of time that you see the physician. Until the doctor determines that you are at Maximum Medical Improvement, the workers’ compensation company has to continue allowing you to receive care.
Finally, there are many times when a workers’ compensation patient has expressed concerns about whether or not they are entitled to have access to their medical records: many fear that because the workers’ compensation insurance company pays for their care, they are somehow barred from getting copies of their personal information. This is not the case. In fact, it would be illegal for your employer or their insurance company to keep you from any medical information that you request, and the same is true of the physician’s office. Again, though the insurance company is paying the bills, the doctor’s relationship is with you, and they are to treat you in the same way that they would any of their private patients.
Being injured in an on-the-job accident is distressing, and it is important that you know all of your rights and feel confident in the care that you are receiving. If you have questions or believe that you are not getting the benefits that you deserve, contact us today to get knowledgeable legal representation.